Top Sixty English Language Films of the Decade, Part 3: 20 – 01

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Best English Language Films of the Decade
Part 3: 20 through 1

Continuing on…

Picking the best films of a decade is, let’s face it, mostly an impossible task. This is made all the more ridiculous when choosing among all genres. So to make it somewhat manageable, I’ve decided to break it up in to the Top Twenty Foreign Films, Top Twenty Docs, Top Sixty Television (coming soon), and of course, these, the Top Sixty Domestic/English Language Films (which, by necessity, I’ve chopped in to three parts). Now, listen, it’s just me here. I don’t have a team of writers. And, since this is not my profession, I only see about 100-125 films a year – so you will undoubtedly have films you would have chosen that I haven’t seen. I welcome the disagreements and hope in the comments you’ll tell me I’m an idiot for leaving off your faves, because there’s a good chance I haven’t seen it. Thus it might be a welcome introduction for me.

20. “1917” (2019)
Directed by Sam Mendes

Image result for 1917 posterThe third best war film of the decade is also the most ingeniously conceived and produced. Deakins and Mendes have done something truly special while never losing sight of how truly heinous that conflict was….most importantly, reminding us, that when it came to that specific conflict, the delineation between the good guys and the bad guys was less important than the meat grinder nature of the war itself.

Trailer here, currently in theaters.

19. “Get Out” (2017)
Directed by Jordan Peele

Image result for get out posterA first in a lot of areas, but most importantly, the first African-American helmed and produced horror flick that was satisfying for all audiences. Peele will go down as the next Wes Craven – an idea that would have seemed absurd before this, his freshman effort.

Trailer here, available only for rent.

18. “Leave No Trace” (2018)
Directed by Debra Granik

Image result for leave no trace posterGranik’s second film on my Top 60, this is, for me, the better of the two. Universal themes about the effects of post-deplayment PTSD on both the sufferers and those most close to them are explored via exceptional writing and terrific performances from Ben Foster and “JoJo Rabbit’s” Thomasin McKenzie. Have a box of Kleenex nearby. You’re going to need them.

Trailer here, available on AmazonPrime.

17. “Isle of Dogs” (2013)
Directed by Wes Anderson

Image result for isle of dogs posterJeff Goldblum is the voice of a dog? I’m in. Add to that actual charm, loving nostalgia, brilliant animation, a terrific sense of humor, and a powerful score from Desplat…and you have a top twenty film of the decade.

Trailer here, currently available on Cinemax.

16. “Snowpiercer” (2013)
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho

Image result for snowpiercer posterSo…before ‘Parasite”, Joon-Ho chose a different way to tell a story about the inequities of economic…uh…inequity. With a great cast, thrilling fight scenes, and a post-apocalyptic scifi feel, “Snowpiercer” is a fantastic way to spend a couple hours.

Trailer here, currently available on Netflix.

15. “Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” (2014)
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Image result for birdman posterI can’t tell you why this is such a great film. I mean…Keaton is brilliant, yes, but it’s bizarre. In spite of, or maybe because of this,  it’s never ventured far from my frontal lobe. And I’m guessing not all that far from yours, either.

Trailer here, currently only available for rent.

14. “Inception” (2010)
Directed by Christopher Nolan`

Image result for inception posterBarely making it in to the mix, coming out in January of 2010 as it did, this is Nolan at his most…Nolan. This crazy, convoluted, epic is  damned brilliant. I’m not alone here. Just ask all the fanboys (which I don’t think I would be confused as – but maybe…), and the many other critics who also put it on their lists. Regardless, one of the few on this list that end up watching until the end every time it wanders across my screen…and still wait with baited breath at that final scene.

Trailer here, currently available on Netflix.

13. “The Death of Stalin” (2017)
Directed by Armando Iannucci

Image result for death of stalin posterIannucci’s brilliance was solidified with The Alan Partridge Show (“Aha!”), then with his hilarious and intelligent political satire from 2008, “In the Loop”, and finally, “Veep”, of course. But this is a whole new level of deranged hilarity. The premise is simple, yet historically spot on, and the performances are other-worldly.

Trailer here, currently available on Showtime.

12. “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Image result for zero dark posterDoesn’t it seem like this film came out over ten years ago? As I was going through the list of films from the decade I was actually surprised. But, watch it again. It’s hard to minimize how good it is. And how it continued the overdue discussion about Hollywood’s century long avoidance of using female directors in large budget studio films that Bigelow began with “The Hurt Locker”.

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.

11. “Inside Out” (2015)
Directed by Pete Doctor & Ronnie Del Carmen

Image result for inside out posterThe most inventive, innovative, creative and touching film about adolescence – and the emotions that overwhelm them. Fantastic.

Trailer here, currently available on Disney+ and Starz.

10. “The Sisters Brothers” (2018)
Directed by Jacques Audiard`

Related imageI’ve now watched this film three times and listened to Desplat’s score a million times…and it gets better every single time. This has become my favorite Western of the decade. Plus all four performances (Reilly, Phoenix, Gyllenhall and Ahmed) are uniformly even, committed and magnetic.

Trailer here, currently available on Hulu.

9. “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)
Directed by George Miller

Image result for mad max posterEndlessly thrilling, visually enthralling and unbelievably imaginative. There. Three adverbs followed by three big time adjectives. What more do you need? What’s that? You say you wonder what it might have looked like in black and white? Well, it looks gorgeous, thank you very much. Just get the “Chrome” edition. You’re welcome.

Trailer here, currently available on the USA Network app

8. “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018)
Directed by Barry Jenkins

Image result for if beale street could talk posterJenkins has made two films. They both made my top ten. If James Baldwin, as he was writing this text, were to imagine what it would look and sound like, he would very likely have been looking at scenes from this film…they seem that connected to the book. And the performances…and the photography…and Britell’s score. I still haven’t yet figured out why it was denied at least a nomination. No bother…I don’t need the Academy to tell me it was the best American film of 2018.

Trailer here, currently available for Hulu.


7. “Hell Or High Water” (2016)
Directed by David Mackenzie

Image result for hell or high water posterQuiet, of its time and place, and offering terrific performances from Foster, Pine and, especially, Bridges, “Hell Or High Water” was probably the biggest surprise of the decade. Mackenzie, in his TENTH directorial effort, hit gold (alas, his follow up was the dreadful “Outlaw King”). This film, which most closely reminds me of a much earlier Bridges’ film, 1974’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot”, is shot with as much care for the wide open spaces and communities it takes place in as it does in making sure the dialogue matches it. Can watch it any time.

Trailer here, currently available on Netflix.

6. “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013)
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen

Image result for inside llewyn posterEasily the best Coen Brothers film of the last decade, it easily strums its way in to my Top Ten. Making the most of then new star, Oscar Isaac, the Coen’s take on the Greenwich Village folk scene perfectly illustrates the frustrations, dreams, desires and failures of those who feel they have something new to say in a particular culture. Yes, it is depressing, but it is also irreverent, brilliantly shot by Bruno Delbonnel, and features a brilliant mix of old and new music (some performed by a fantastic Justin Timberlake).

Trailer here, currently available on AmazonPrime.

5. “Joker” (2019)
Directed by Todd Phillips

Related imageMaybe the best film ever made about the effects of PTSD borne of childhood abuse ever made, it also happens to be one of the best shot films of the decade thanks to Lawrence Sher. Featuring what I consider to be the best male performance of the decade, “Joker” is impossible to turn away from within the first two minutes of the film. And even if the ending strays a little too close to the mythology of DC Comincs, the rest has almost nothing to do with any of it and stands by itself as a brilliant character examination.

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.

4. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)
Directed by Wes Anderson

Image result for grand budapest hotel posterAnderson’s best ever live-action film (by quite a bit for me), is, well, just plain fun and more warm-hearted than most any picture. Add to that a wholly original visual style from Anderson and cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, another brilliant score from Desplat, and a fantastic Ralph Fiennes (so what else is new), and you have a film for the ages.

Trailer here, currently only available for rent.

3. “Dunkirk” (2017)
Directed by Christopher Nolan

Image result for dunkirk posterI know, I know. I’m an outlier here, but, sorry, this easily finds its way high up on this list. Seen it twice in the theater and once at home and, every time, I am shaking at the end of it. I don’t know what else to say that hasn’t already been said. It’s simply the best war film of the decade, in terms of showing the entire scope of the hell that is war in under two hours. “1917” might be the most intimate, but, for me, this has more impact, and I was certainly less aware of the film craft in the moment than Mendes’ epic.

Trailer here currently only available for rent

2. “Sing Street” (2016)
Directed by John Carney

Image result for sing street posterYes, “Sing Street” makes my Top Two. It’s not the best made, the best acted or the best shot. But, plain and simple? It’s my favorite and that should count for something. I sing “The Riddle of the Model” to my dog, Dewey, all the time, and laugh out loud as if I’m hearing the songs for the first time even on my twelfth or thirteenth viewing (I’ve lost count). Fitting, actually, since Carney’s “Once” would’ve made my Top Ten of the previous decade had I made such a list then.

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.

1. “Moonlight” (2016)
Directed by Barry Jenkins

Image result for moonlight posterYup. In my estimation, the greatest English-language film of the decade is Jenkins’ Oscar-winning first effort. The manner of its telling, the subject matter and its place in our current world, the beautiful close-ups that mark his directorial style, and the performances of the two leads in each of the film’s three eras, put it above all else. And that final shot…chills. The best of the best.

Trailer here, currently available on Netflix and Kanopy.


So to sum up by year (Top Twenty):

  • 2010: 5 (1)
  • 2011: 6
  • 2012: 5 (1)
  • 2013: 4 (3)
  • 2014: 4 (2)
  • 2015: 9 (2)
  • 2016: 5 (3)
  • 2017: 6 (3)
  • 2018: 9 (3)
  • 2019: 7 (2)

See you in a decade!

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